The setup

I am a tinkerer and enjoy having time to myself to work on little projects, learn new skills, read, do puzzles, etc. For lack of a better name, let’s call this “tinkering time”. As a result of my maximizer tendencies, I tack my tinkering time on to the end of the day after my wife goes to bed - usually around 22:30. Additionally, my daughter gets up every morning at 7:10 - this means I need to be up everyday at 7:10. That’s not a complaint, (I love hanging out with her) it just means I don’t have the option to sleep in.

This situation means that many nights that I startle awake some time after midnight and find myself sitting on the couch, laptop tipped-over on the cushion next to me. Then I begin the (now groggy) ritual of flossing, brushing and waking up my wife as try (unsuccessfully) to slip into bed unnoticed.

The experiment

My routine was okay, but far from ideal. Then I read a blog post by my ol’ pal James Greig and was inspired to run an experiment on my tinkering schedule. After some reflection, I decided to move my tinkering time from the end of the day to the beginning. Specifically 5:30am. Having 100 tinker-minutes (5:30 - 7:10) every morning sounded fantastic.

The results

Flash forward a few months and here are my major takeaways:

  • I think I got up at 5:30 once - it was usually more like 6. Why? I didn’t use an alarm. I’m an adult human with sleep cycles of ~90 minutes and I was going to bed around 22:30. So as far as my body was concerned, I was going to wake up at either 4:30 (4 cycles) or 6:00 (5 cycles). And if you don’t want to use an alarm, you have to listen to your body.

  • The start of the day feels like a way better time to do the stuff I usually do in my tinkering time. My brain isn’t burnt out from working & parenting all day. At six in the morning, it has never crossed my mind to Netflix and chill.

  • Biggest learning: Improved relationship with my wife! I realized that when my cherished tinkering time was at the end of the day I started to resent my wife if she didn’t go to bed at her usual time - which is awful. Also, I had forgotten how nice it is to climb into bed with someone who hasn’t been asleep for two hours already :)

The future

I think this experiment has been a real winner and I want to continue with it indefinitely.

The epilogue

I’m currently in the middle of an involuntary experiment in which I go to bed at 20:00 and get up a 2:00. This is because my son has just come home after 3 months in the NICU (he was born 14 weeks early) and my wife and I are on shifts to watch him during the 12ish hours our daughter is asleep. I now have a lot more tinkering time, although it is interspersed with feedings, diaper changes and quick, “is he still breathing” checks ;)